Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sandra E. Gramling, PhD

Second Advisor

Stephen A. Auerbach, PhD

Third Advisor

Bruce Rubarczyk, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Geraldine Lotze, PhD

Fifth Advisor

Linda Hancock, PhD


The current study used a three-phase mixed-methods design to produce a new self-report measure of the strategies that college students use to cope with the death of a loved-one. College students are commonly bereaved and may be in the process of undergoing important developmental tasks related to emerging adulthood. However, the application of grief-specific stress-and-coping theories (i.e., the Dual Process Model of Coping with Bereavement) to this population has been hampered by measurement issues.

The current study aimed to address the flaws asserted above through the use of a mixed-methods scale development design. To this end, the researcher made use of the discussion component of a bereavement-focused special topics course to refine a focus-group facilitation guide and generate a preliminary list of content domains. In Study 1, three bereaved students participated in a formal focus-group. Three graduate-level bereavement researchers drew from the qualitative data available from the Pilot Study and Study 1 to develop a pool of 192 items for use in quantitative analysis. In Study 2, these items were administered to a sample of 700 bereaved undergraduates. Exploratory and Confirmatory factor analyses suggested that a 5-factor model was the best fit for the data.

Results suggest that bereaved students use a variety of strategies when coping with bereavement, including using drugs and alcohol, seeking support from others, accessing religious faith, exploring new relationships and identities, and experiencing depression symptoms. Preliminary support was provided for the validity of a 26-item coping strategies measure with five subscales named the GCOPE.


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